An Opportunity to Thrive

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This past October, we embarked upon another Zam Zam trip to our beloved Rwanda. Prior to leaving, a few of us had notified our friends that we’d be collecting funds to be donated directly to the villagers. We expected a few hundred dollars, but then magic happened. 

The donations poured in. Especially, after our supporters saw our content on social media. We realized that the key was building a connection. Allowing our donors to see our villagers as human beings, fostered a connection that ushered in nearly $5,000 in total donations - all within a two-week span.

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We used the first $500 to purchase 50, five-liter water buckets, that we installed with water purifiers. The water purifiers filter up to 5,000 liters of clean, fresh water. The water they use comes from the water well projects we have built in those villages. We provided a few of those buckets to our schools and the rest to the surrounding community.


The remaining funds were dedicated to providing one of the most essential, yet scarce resources in the villages - healthcare. We are in the process of registering 550 children to receive healthcare insurance for 2 full calendar years. 460 of those children are students at the Zam Zam schools and the remaining 90 are children in the local area.

The heart and compassion of our domestic donors paved the way for thousands of Rwandans to have the priceless safety-net of health insurance. Every act of kindness has rippling effects. Only the Lord knows how many lives will be saved from this last minute fundraiser. 


Rwandans are some of the most grateful people we’ve come across. They thanked us, but in reality, it was us who needed to thank them for allowing us to connect with them. Apart from the monetary contributions, the biggest gift was the gift of love. 

With Love,

Omar Kohgadai

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Formidable Joy

"Things don't happen by accident..."

Hi everyone –

Cindee Rood here from Formidable Joy.

Zam Zam & Formidable Joy just completed our very first water project together in Malawi, Africa at Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” because of the friendly nature of the people. It is one of the least developed and most impoverished countries in the world - currently ranked #6 by Global Finance Magazine.

In a country of 18 million, an estimated 20% of the population (over 3.6 million people) lacks access to clean water. As with many developing nations in the world, it is women & girls who bear the responsibility of fetching water for the family. 

Located in Dowa, Malawi, Dzaleka Refugee Camp is home to 38,000 refugees, a camp originally built for only 9,000. Over 80% of the refugees come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, followed by Burundi and many more surrounding countries. The camp currently only has 32 water wells for a population of 38,000 (an average of 1,187 people per well). The water wells at the camp are so congested that they run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

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Formidable Joy works with local organizations and drilling teams to identify schools, health centers, and communities in need. Many of the villages and/or schools we serve rely on dirty water sources - from rivers and streams to hand-dug holes. We work with experienced, Malawian-owned drilling companies. We also rehabilitate old, broken pump/boreholes that were installed by other NGOs or the Malawian government. A simple repair can bring an old malfunctioning borehole back to life; thus improving the quality of life for a community.

We implemented our first solar water system at Mercy James Centre – the only state-of-the-art children’s hospital in the entire country.  We partnered with Raising Malawi, an organization started by Madonna where 1,639 surgeries were performed at the hospital in its first year.

Formidable Joy is based in Los Angeles and was founded by Cindee Rood. She has personally assessed, spearheaded, and completed 36 water projects throughout 10 districts in Malawi - from remote villages to primary & preschools to health centers - impacting over 35,000 people to date.

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Cultivating Relationships:

Our work together is thanks to a delayed flight, talking to strangers, and the cliché of, “there are no accidents”. I was en route to Malawi a few months ago. The flight leaving Los Angeles was delayed, so I struck up a conversation with the man standing next me. Our brief conversation at 1:00am in Los Angeles led to coffee 20 hours later in the Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia. Over coffee we spoke of our mutual love of Africa and of serving others. He is one of the loveliest people I had ever met, and also one of the biggest humanitarians I’ve come across. He is a husband, father, grandfather, runs his own nonprofits, and is a board member on several others. He’s a professor and it turns out he just happened to have an interest in clean water projects, as he serves on Zam Zam's Advisory Board.  He suggested Yusuf & I connect, and the rest, as they say, is history. The “he” in this long story of mine is Jim Losi. 

I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to Jim Losi and Yusuf Nessary. Installing an additional water point at Dzaleka Refugee Camp is the first project Zam Zam has completed in Malawi, and the first of (hopefully) many more collaborating effort. It’s a beautiful story of two organizations coming together for one common goal – providing access to clean water for people in need. The moral of the story is “there are no accidents”. You never know who’s listening and who wants to serve. Over 1,000 people benefited from a chance encounter.                                       

 

So on behalf of the beneficiaries at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Thank you to all the Zam Zam supporters – YOU made this happen!

Zikomo kwambiri - Thank you very much

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The Smile: 10 years later

There is a Dari saying: “When someone you love is hurting, your soul feels it way before you find out.” June 7th, 2008 was an ordinary summer day, yet something felt so wrong about it.  A heavy knot in my stomach, an uneasy feeling that had settled since morning. This was my soul preparing me for the worst moment of my life. June 7th became a day forever etched in our hearts as the day my loving brother, Faridullah Abbasi, was taken from us. 

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This year, it will be ten years since he was taken from us; not a single day goes by where our family does not think of him.  Faridullah, or “Fred” to his friends and family, was only 23 years old when his life was brutally cut short. Yet, he was no ordinary soul. His short life was filled with many hidden deeds of generosity and kindness. Almost every day after Fred passed away, it felt as though someone new was coming forward to share their story of how he had touched their lives.  Every day for the last ten years, our family has constantly been reminded of his giving nature; even though he has left this world, his good deeds and shining example still remain.

This year, our family decided to honor Fred's memory by coming together with Zam Zam in an effort to continue his legacy of serving others. We sought to construct two water wells in Kabul, Afghanistan in time for his 33rd birthday on May 8, 2018. It was only due to the tireless efforts of the Zam Zam staff that our hope to have the water projects built in time to mark Fred's birthday became a reality. Zam Zam turned the impossible into the possible. Our family will forever be grateful to Zam Zam for providing us an opportunity to dramatically improve the quality of life for two of the most impoverished communities in Kabul. Just as the month of Ramadan began, these communities now have reliable access to a clean water supply. We hope that Allah (SWT) will accept this work as another one of Fred's good deeds, perhaps one that will continue to benefit these two communities throughout the years.

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Every year,  our family gathers at the cemetery on May 8, to visit Fred on his birthday. It wasn't quite the same this year, though. As we all stood there at the cemetery, reciting Surahs from the holy Qur'an,  an aura of calmness and serenity filled the air.  If we closed our eyes, we could almost feel Fred standing amongst us, embracing us with his big radiant smile. On June 7th, the 10th anniversary of his passing, the students of Imam Bukhari Orphan Education Center held a Khatem Quran in honor of Fred. This wonderful feeling, this moment of grace, would not have been made possible had Allah SWT not intended for it, through the work of the Zam Zam. For you see, after all these years, it still bears true that “Indeed, Allah is with those who patiently endure.”

-Sharifa Abbasi

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An Open Letter to The Zamily

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Like most of our narratives, being born and raised in this hemisphere of the globe has placed me on a pretty high scale when it comes to the levels of privilege around the world. As an adult, I’ve done my fair share of zakat every year; always made sure to give a few dollars to the homeless I come across on the streets, sometimes even buy them a meal if time permits; I make sure to extend my help to distant family members at times of need (and actually act upon it); I put money in the donation box every time I attend the masjid; I attend funerals and pay my respects to the elderly; I pray as much as I can; and I’m genuinely a kind person (sounds so horrible to say that about yourself; please bear with me for the sake of proving my point)--but I mean, that’s about it. That’s where it ends. Give or take a few, that’s where it ends for the most of us.

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For those of you who know me, you know how close my sister Hila and I are. When it comes to our free time that's not occupied with work, we’re pretty much doing something together. Whether it's going out for a meal to try out the newest mom and pop shop, a quick hike up the nearest canyon, or simply going over our next “big” idea for a film that came to one of us the night before in our sleep; one could say we’re basically attached at the hip.

However, in the past few years there's been a decline in our hangouts due to other commitments, which is totally understandable--we’re growing up, we have different social circles, we have different priorities. But one thing that always left me perplexed was when I would see Hila working on Zam Zam related work at two in the morning or missing out on a movie night (ok, that one really hurt) because she had a meeting scheduled with the Zam Zam Creative team and needed to dedicate her time to the organization instead of me.

At times, I legit thought she was the only crazy one (apart from Yusuf) dedicating her free time to this cause. It’s just another charity. There are a million of others out there. No charity has ever saved any country. And this is where it gets bad; Just another organization with big egos who are trying to place their mark on the world for the sake of making themselves feel better when we all know these third world countries don’t need non-profits, they need a structure in the country itself; complete waste of money and time.

After all, it's just another charity organization.

Oh bacheem, was I wrong.

Due to our steady decline in sister bonding time, Hila had been after me to fly up to the Bay Area so I could attend the 2018 Zam Zam Gala with her this year. “Come on man, it’s just one night, for a few hours. We could totally hang out the other nights and be tourists around San Francisco!”...she got me there. All those years of visiting the Bay as a child, but only driving through Fremont where we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Maiwand Market, stacking up on enough bread to feed all of Orange County and then visiting random Khala Jaans and Kaka Jaans in the outskirts of the Bay had left an unimaginable void in my heart. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to fix that. Ok, lets do it.

Before I knew it, we were landing in San Francisco on the Friday night before the Gala. Hila, will your friends like me? What if they think i'm weird? Why did I agree to come. Jesus, my social anxiety is on another level right now. Should've stayed back. Yep. Wait, Who Cares? Only going to see them for a bit. We’ll be spending most of our time out and about. We all know how that ended. Nothing touristy. In fact, Hila lied, ditched me and spent all weekend--up till the Gala--dedicated to editing Zam Zam’s newest highlight video, again. *Que Michelle from Full House: HOW RUDE*

But actually, no; not rude at all.

How courageous.

How marvelous.

How moving.

While she was away from me prepping for the event or mingling amongst the guest at the Gala, I finally began to slowly understand her. This madness was all starting to make sense. Hila wasn’t the only crazy one. In fact, every single volunteer was just as crazy as her; they all had embedded their souls deep into the cause and were essential pieces that shaped the Zam Zam puzzle together.

And to every single volunteer at Zam Zam, whether we managed to find the time and have a deep conversation amongst those few nights we were there, or seeing how you interacted with one another from afar, I saw how dedicated you were and it left me in awe. Thanks to your all nighters, skipping out on your free time and dedicating your absolute all to Zam Zam, The Imam Bukhari Orphan Center will have their doors open for another year. Another year to serve 300 beautiful souls. Another year to hear 300 prayers. Another year for 300 more stories.

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This isn’t just another charity. This is a group of individuals wanting to create a strong foundation for children in these underprivileged areas. This is a group of individuals who are going to make sure these children become well rounded individuals. This is a group of individuals who care about where these orphans will be in 30 years. This is a group of individuals who care for the impact this will put on children's lives and the future of the world.

I am so proud of you guys and thank you all for allowing me to experience this with you. At times when I think about my experience, I feel like I went on some sort of spiritual pilgrimage. I now understand it shouldn’t end with just the basics. Passing out a few bucks to someone in need or doing tasks that we are morally obligated shouldn’t make us feel like we’ve done enough. It’s never enough. We just have to surround ourselves with the right people to understand that. The energy, the aura, the love, the compassion, the moments of wanting to strangle each other, the tears, the pimple that formed on my right cheek out of the blue was all worth it.  

I planned on being a tourist while watching the ripples of the Bay hit the shoreline near the Golden Gate Bridge whilst taking nice Instagram photos, but instead I ended up being a tourist at Zam Zam and finally realized Hila wasn’t crazy after all.

To my sister, thank you for dragging me across the Pacific. It is safe to say, Zam Zam’s ripples had reached me.

Much Love,
Homeyra Hamidi

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All Photos Provided by Masood Mawlavizada from Amanah Photos

Empowering afghanistan, one student at a time.

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Bejan - Neghena - Munija - Nadia - Omar                                                                       

Last week, a group of us had the opportunity to visit the Imam Bukhari Orphan Education Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. The 4-story center was completed just four years ago serving over 300 boys and girls. Imam Bukhari provides the children with exceptional teachers, a library filled with a variety of books, a computer lab, different kind of classes - Science, Mathematics, Recitation of Holy Quran, Islamic Education, Farsi, and English. They prepare the students for higher education and the possibility of future internship opportunities. Other than education, the children are provided with food, clothing, resources, guidance, and most importantly the feeling of empowerment. The Imam Bukhari Orphan Center gives them the opportunity to enjoy their childhood while also preparing them for a future. It gives them the opportunity to overcome their obstacles and become the best version of themselves. They have built an environment for these orphans to prosper and the orphan center is creating a bond between the kids that will last a lifetime.

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Visiting the Imam Bukhari Orphan Center was an experience like no other. We were not ready for this emotional rollercoaster of being surrounded by 300 orphans. All with a heartbreaking story. Upon our arrival to the Zam Zam Blue building, which brings color and life to the surrounding areas, we were welcomed with so much gratitude and love; not only from all the children, but from the staff, especially Dr. Suliman Nessary, the Executive Director. Once we walked into those blue doors, the children were lined up greeting us with flowers. It was an absolute joy to see the smiles on the kids’ faces. Our broken Farsi was the joke of the hour, but it was worth seeing their smiles. Faisal, one of the boys, welcomed us with a beautiful poem he had written. His voice was so powerful and moving, every verse he read came from the heart. Walking through the halls, you can see the showcases of students that placed “awal numra”- top students of the class. The showcase represents a sense of accomplishment and reward for their hard work and dedication.

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After leaving the orphan center we had a sense of hope. These kids are the future generation of Afghanistan and they will soon be the change the country has been waiting to see. We have never been in the presence of such disciplined and respectful kids. Every single soul was kind, respectful and welcoming. Regardless of everything that they have experienced, they continued to have a smile on their face.  The professors have been raising these kids to be strong and smart individuals so that one day they can follow their dreams and aspirations. These children are the future. Each one is a beacon of hope.

Today’s Imam Bukhari orphans are being prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders. Being labeled as an orphan does not define their (in)capabilities for success. They will be the ones to end the cycle of violence seen in Afghanistan, because they are survivors. They will overcome their struggles thanks to the worldwide love, support, and guidance they have received. We all made a promise that we will continue to help the Imam Bukhari Orphan Center, as well as visit every year, and will always be a supporter of Zam Zam. What they do and what they stand for is very inspiring and we wish them all the success. May God bless these children and all their supporters!

“We want our kids to grow up and further their education in hopes of them being successful and one day returning to help the future students of Imam Bukhari.” - Dr. Suliman Nessary

- Nadia Ramin, Munjia Ramin, Omar Ramin, and Bejan Ramin 

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A Family’s Resilience: The Story of Matin Mesdaq

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In coming together with Zam Zam Water in memory of a son, brother, friend, and much more, Matin Mesdaq was a young 23-year-old that departed this world too soon. He was honored in the beautiful community of Dasht E Barchi, Afghanistan. The resilience the people of Afghanistan contain is not only admirable but desirable. Our Afghan-American identity was attained from that same resilience. The ability of bringing an idea and vision to life is incredible, especially one that serves so many. So many, implying not only the beautiful people of Dasht E Barchi but also the impact it had on us as a family. It is truly incredible how we can all help one another with proper use of resources, not only physical but also the unseen. This is what Zam Zam Water has done for us as a family. March 6, 2018 marked not only the two-year anniversary for Matin but also the day Zam Zam presented our family with a beautiful way of honoring our Matin. Entrusting Zam Zam with a request so personal on a large scale has allowed us to gain so much more in return. Our family is certainly nothing short of appreciative and humbled that we are a small part of the incredible work that Zam Zam has and will continue to produce.

 

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"Every soul shall taste death" (Quran 3:185). Our hearts were fighting against our minds and the verse indeed was right before us. Although we had always believed it, now it had to be lived. What was practiced through words now had to be implemented by our actions, emotions, and heart. A mentality of acceptance gave us peace and a reason for persistence. Matins janazah (burial) was led by the same mentor that exposed and instilled within us at a young age that death would approach regardless of age and situation. There was no way around it. He was now leading one of his own students janazah and what we were taught and learned from had now come to a full circle and was being implemented in reality "to Allah we belong and to him we shall surely return" (Quran 2:156). 

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Matin never waited for the perfect moment but instead just any moment, never depending on the future. He acknowledged his imperfections always with sincerity in the way he carried himself and we were reminded of that constantly by many on that very day. The amount of Muslims and non-Muslim’s that stood, cried, and prayed with us respectfully on the day of his funeral showed us how important it was for him to always go beyond what was comfortable for him. Bringing closer and engaging with those that were different than him always. He never wanted to live in fear, in turn creating fear within us of losing him. We were left with the following question: does the perception of having control over so many aspects of our life, make the lack of control when death reaches us a difficult hurdle to overcome?

-Mesdaq Family 

                                                                                                      Matin Mesdaq

                                                                                                     Matin Mesdaq

Winters in Gaza

In anticipation of another devastating winter with below freezing temperatures, we decided to push for a new initiative at Zam Zam - a clothing drive for the children of Gaza, Palestine. 

Our initial goal was to raise $15,000, which would go towards purchasing winter bundles for the children of Palestine. Each bundle of clothing included: sweaters, gloves, socks, shoes, and undergarments.

For the past five years, Freshta Kohgadai, Rahat Mawlavizada and I have done similar winter drives, independent of Zam Zam, resulting in $3,000-$13,000 of funds raised per year. Therefore, this year’s goal of $15k seemed relatively attainable. 

Once we had launched our campaign, magic happened. Our initiative spread like wildfire, and the donations poured in due to the Zam Zam following, as well as, the undying generosity of the Palestinian-supporting community, including our partners at PaliRoots and MECA. We achieved our goal in a matter of days. Our goal of $15k became $25k, then $30k and beyond. I can still recall the conversation over the phone with Yusuf, founder of Zam Zam, telling him that we’d close out at $50k, fortunately, I was wrong. 

At the end of our drive, our donors exceeded all of our expectations and we ended the campaign at approximately $67,000, an astonishing $52,000 more than our initial goal. We were able to provide nearly 2,700 Palestinian children with winter bundles which helped them survive their chilling winter. Aside from providing warmth, we provided jobs and stimulated their local economy because all items were manufactured and purchased directly in Gaza. More importantly, we gave these children something more valuable than just clothing; we gave them hope. The priceless expressions of joy indicated that they felt our love from afar. To be able to provide care to nearly 2,700 children is a feeling that I’m still trying to grasp. That’s 2,700 smiles. 2,700 dreams. Lives that may have been sadly cut short, were it not for our supporters. 

On behalf of Freshta, Rahat, and the entire Zam Zam family we are eternally grateful for your contributions. We appreciate all of your efforts whether it was a donation, sharing our campaign, or simply engaging and bringing awareness to the the plight of the Palestinians; you made a difference. 

We would like to share some pictures of the children, which you've protected from frigid temperatures, as they receive their warm clothes. As you see the faces of these angels, our hope is that you feel a sense of fulfillment knowing we achieved this goal together.


Peace and love,
Omar Kohgadai

Bettering Ourselves Through Education

“Take the best of what this country provides, learn something and become someone.” These are the words that echoed through my mind at a very young age, these are the words that fueled my hunger for knowledge, these are the words of my mother. We all would like to better ourselves the best way we know how: education. This the strongest tool to fight misinformation, a tool to fight ignorance, it’s also a way to better ourselves with each page we read, we learn more and we do better.

However, there are some obstacles that appear in our way and it can shape itself in many forms, be it financially or be it opportunity. At Zam Zam Water we decided that it was time to give back to our community here at home; to help those who want to attain a higher education and do better for themselves.

Thanks to our supporters at Paxful and with the use of Bitcoin and our #BuiltWithBitcoin campaign, we were able to designate $15,000 towards our Education is Life program. With the help of the Afghan-American Conference we were able to select three very deserving individuals for these scholarships to be used for their pursuit of higher education.

Here are their stories:

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Susan Naseri

“My name is Susan. But my brothers call me Sose. My brothers implemented a love and need for learning in me, as they worked endless hours, did not complete high school and deprived themselves of education in order to see my success. I am the only individual in my family to attend college and I persist daily, knowing that my brothers surrendered their opportunities for me and remembering that despite my achievements, I am still the same poor girl that wore her brothers’ clothes in kindergarten.

My name is Susan. But you can call me resilient. I carry the pain of poverty, of my family’s lack of education, of my cousins’ inhumane deaths, and of every woman coping with two marginalized societies with me daily so that I never lose sight of myself and my goals”

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Dunia Azizi

“I have come a long way in my life in the face of adversity, and have literally walked through the “valley of shadow of death” as a child of war, so I cannot settle for less. My background and achievements are a proof that I will succeed in my transfer schools, and utilize my education and academic training to pursue my life goal. If I receive the AAC scholarship, I will be able to afford going to school and further continue my education. Continuing my education will empower me to become fully prepared to make a major difference in the lives of other people, especially Afghan girls and refugees.”

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Farzana Nawabi

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Sofia, Farzana's Daughter

“I have lived in various countries, speak many languages and seen many ups and downs in life. One thing that I have held near and dear to my heart was education. I am a strong believer that fame, fortune, and beauty can be taken from an individual, but knowledge is the one power that cannot ever be taken away from me. Doing what I am currently doing is a wonderful example to never give up on your dreams and being a strong role model for women empowerment by showing that if you are dedicated and put your mind into it, anything is possible. Anyone else in my situation would have given up by now, but even though I am not a traditional student by raising my youngest son, being the head of the household, having family responsibilities, as well as social relationships, working 42.5 hours a week and going to school at nights, I consider myself worthy of this scholarship. It has been a long time coming to pursue my dream of receiving this degree and nothing can stop me now.”

These aren’t just words on a page, but the realities they have lived and the difficulties they have overcome. Their stories, their lives, their struggles and their successes have molded them but do not define them. We at Zam Zam are truly honored to be even an iota of support for them on their long journeys ahead.

Ladies, this is to your courage, this is to your resilience and this is to your continued success. Education is life!

....and you ladies are the heartbeat of it all.

- Wais Hamid

Afghan-Americans Coming Together

New York, March 2018

“The Afghan-American Conference is an annual nationwide conference for young community leaders to engage in meaningful dialogue, grow professionally and build relationships.”

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This past weekend over 400 Afghan-Americans came together to build a stronger relationship with the community, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally. AAC provides a platform for Afghan-Americans to engage in conversations about careers, families, societal expectations, and aspirations. Often times we are disconnected from our own communities due to time, location, or being isolated from the community. Having a unique yet similar background, we need each other. We need to support our community because if we do not support one another, then who will? There is more benefit when we all come together and learn from each other. 

Over the course of three days, we learned about the history of Afghanistan from Ali Olomi, inspirational speeches by resilient women speaking about depression and mental health, such as Neghena Hamidi. Hearing a strong and empowered voice about domestic violence from Arash Azizzada, just to name a few of the inspiring individuals. Afghan-Americans have a spectrum of talented and bright young individuals, the conference allows you to experience that in the span of one weekend. We bonded through our stories, experiences, discussions, music, laughter, and Attan (the native dance of Afghanistan). What makes AAC unique is the deep connections you make and the realization that there are so many others just like you.

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After leaving AAC, I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion and love for my community.  

We have more commonalities than differences, we all have similar insecurities and struggles. This was my third time attending AAC, but this year was different. I needed AAC more than it needed me. I have a renewed sense of appreciation and admiration for my peers. It opened my eyes seeing my community be raw and vulnerable enough to share their most painful stories. We listened together, we cried together, and we embraced each other. In those moments all barriers fell down and nothing but compassion came thereafter. It opens your eyes to see the real person and that they too struggle with their own battles. Once we realize how similar and vulnerable we really are, we feel less intimidated by those we may have thought superior. We have be to authentic with ourselves and with our community to be able to move forward. Breaking down barriers shows growth within ourselves and that is progress for our community. Any step you make to improve is progress, but remain consistent and persistent. Now that we have renewed our relationships, any step we take forward, we have the support of our community by our side. As long as you make an effort to do better and be better, that is a victory.

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AAC Mehmaan Nawazi - Afghan Hospitality

The organizing committee continues to do an outstanding job by executing a seamless conference. This is a grassroots effort that is run by volunteers that are committed to helping serve their community. I think that is one of the special qualities of AAC, it makes you feel at home with 400 of your long lost cousins. Individuals that are passionate about bringing people together from around the globe that will hopefully continue for many generations to come. We hear our parents speak about the life they had in Afghanistan and all the amazing work they accomplished, now we have too that but for our generation. 

It’s a beautiful blend of Afghan and American culture. The Afghan hospitality shines through and remains with us all. I loved that there were volunteers attentively waiting at every corner and every turn ready to guide you to your next session or to lunch. There was always someone available to help and ready to serve their guests. After you get over the initial fear of being surrounded by hundreds of Afghans, you see that they’re just like your cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. and you feel at home. 

To end this reflection, I will share a response from my AAC application…

This past fall, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Rwanda with our team, which will probably be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. In Rwanda, I witnessed what it truly means to be a community. Once enemies and now trusted neighbors, everyone looks after one another, there is genuine concern for their fellow community members. AAC and Zam Zam both represent of this type of community, a place where we learn from one another and empowering our brothers/sisters to grow to their fullest potential. It has taught me the value of collectivity. We have to start at an individual level in order to make an impact on the greater community.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” —Rumi

-Zarina

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The Best Birthday Present I'll Ever Get

A few months ago I decided to do something truly special for my birthday. I realized I've been nothing short of blessed in my life, I have everything I've ever wanted but there are people who don't. It is 100% our responsibility to take care of others, we will be questioned why we didn't. That's when I reached out to the Zam Zam team.

I decided to start a crowd funding campaign in hopes of building a water well in Rwanda. The possibility of me not raising the funds in time for my birthday was not an option. In 15 days, people made it happen, when that last donation hit, I was on my lunch break, holding back tears, it really tug at my heart, we did it, we built something together that'll benefit not only the people of Rwanda but ourselves. When our time comes, it'll be this water well that'll give us a constant reward we all could use.

My biggest fear was making sure my intentions were clear and for the right reasons, if for some reason I don't get the reward from my creator for it, I at least hope it encourages others to do so and maybe that is what I can be rewarded for.

This water well gave me purpose. In difficult times I'm going to look back and remember what we all did together. I wanted to give everyone sawab (blessings from the creator), we'll all need it. I'm dedicating this to my family and all of you who shared the campaign, donated and prayed for this all to work out. Thank you all for the best birthday present I'll ever get.

- Mustafa